HPSD working to boost student attendance

HPSD working to boost student attendance

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Public School District is trying to keep more students in class everyday, which helps save the district money.

"Currently, we're trying to make sure our schools are meeting our district expectations as it relates to 95 percent daily attendance," said Robert Williams, interim superintendent for the Hattiesburg Public School District. "Each week we do track that attendance, and we send it out in a Monday memo. Each day, the principals and directors, they receive a daily report from me that outlines the number of students that are absent as well as an estimation of the amount of money that we lose per day as it relates to attendance."

Williams estimates the district's is losing thousand of dollars everyday because of low attendance.

"(It) ranges around $4,000 per day," he said. "So we want to make sure that we are encouraging our students and our parents to come to school, but also build a community awareness as it relates to attendance."

Williams said part of that awareness includes educating parents that students must be in school for 63 percent of the school day to be counted as present.

"We want to make sure that we're informing our parents (about) the best times to schedule doctor appointments, so that student that leave for doctor appointments would not be counted absent if they only leave for a part of the day."

Williams said the district's biggest attendance problems are with high school students, so he's trying to come up with creative ways to keep students from being counted as absent.

"Secondary students tend to be a little bit more free, so we want to make sure that our students are aware and that they are present for school," Williams said. "We're looking at some things so alternatives to suspensions to make sure that if a student, if they do have to be removed from campus, that we provide some options, so that student can not only receive instruction, but also make sure that they are being present and accounted for in school."

Hattiesburg Public Schools Board of Trustees President Marcus Cathey agrees the district should do whatever it can to keep students in class.

"I don't think anything is off the table when it comes to attendance," Cathey said. "Anything that we can do to push the attendance, I think we ought to go for it. Every effort that the district can put forth to make sure that our parents and even our team is doing everything possible to get the students actually in the classroom. You can't learn if you're not there, so I think an all-out effort should go forth to make sure that our attendance stays up."